Scholars have often noted YHWH's apparent absence from the Song of Songs. At best, he appears under the name Yah in the difficult and morphologically frozen term שלהבתיה in Song 8:6. In this article, I go beyond שלהבתיה to suggest that love plays the role of YHWH in the Song. Using Calvert Watkins's work on inherited formulae, I argue that Song 8:6b–7a draws on the Northwest Semitic combat myth to identify love with YHWH, the victorious divine warrior. As part of this argument, I identify three inherited formulae in the Hebrew Bible, the Baal Cycle, and later Christian and Jewish literature: “Leviathan, the fleeing serpent, the twisting serpent,” “rebuke Sea,” and “strong as Death.” Within the Song, the phrase “strong as Death” connects this passage with the Baal Cycle, while the references to מים רבים and נהרות evoke scenes of mythic combat from the rest of the Hebrew Bible. This interpretation, I argue, also has mythic resonances in the adjuration refrain in Song 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4 and the phrase “sick with love” in Song 2:5 and 5:8.

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